Engineered hardwood is allergy and environmentally friendly


hardwood floorQuestion: I am getting rid of wall-to-wall carpeting because of the kids’ allergies. I want to replace it with hardwood floors. Will hardwood insulate as well as the carpet and what woods are best?

Answer: Hardwood is one of the most beautiful flooring materials and it is a natural, renewable resource. Even though wood is a reasonable insulator, it will not provide as much insulation as carpeting over a pad.

With its millions of tiny air pockets though, wood flooring does feel warm to your feet and its natural rich appearance creates a comfy ambiance. The insulation level of the flooring material does not have a significant impact upon utility bills. If your home is built over a crawl space, either insulate beneath the floor structure or the entire crawl space. For a house on a slab, insulate around the slab perimeter. If you have a basement, the temperature difference across the floor is insignificant.

By “best” woods, most people mean most durable and attractive. There are significant differences among various hardwoods used for flooring. With children in a home, durability is likely your first priority. With proper care, it can hold up well under their little feet.

There are two characteristics which constitute durability. The first is hardness of the wood surface. A harder wood holds up better to foot traffic and resists dents from dropped items. Even if the surface finish gets scratched and marred, it can be refinished with very little sanding. A softer wood may require more sanding to level the surface.

The second characteristic of durability is stability. A hardwood which is stable will not change shape and size much with changes in humidity and temperature throughout the year. If you prefer natural ventilation during summer with its higher humidity, stability should be a consideration. The hardest woods, such as hard maple, hickory, red oak, etc., may not always be the most stable.

Always check on the specific wood specie, not just a general name such as cherry. Brazilian cherry is more than twice as hard as black cherry, but black cherry is more stable.

An environmentally-good alternative to solid flooring is engineered hardwood. A veneer of real hardwood is bonded to several plies of other less expensive woods. This makes it more stable than most solid hardwoods. The veneer is thick enough for several sandings when refinishing it. The appearance of the flooring is a function of the type of wood, type of finish and patterns.

One of the newest designs for do-it-yourself installation is a puzzle floor. The hardwood pieces are shaped as interlocking puzzle pieces. It is laid as a floating floor for easy installation.

The following companies offer hardwood flooring: